In looking for the best places to retire, we looked for population sizes large enough to support resources for seniors, access to high-quality medical care, taxation rates on Social Security and other retirement benefits, and crime rates.
We also looked at available activities, transportation, and community demographics. While we considered proximity to large metro areas, we did not rule out small towns with easy access to the assets of metro areas. In the end, we selected five diverse locations that had much to offer seniors at a reasonable cost of living in varied climates and styles to fit a diverse range of lifestyle preferences.
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Bethel Park, Pennsylvania
Bethel Park is just outside Pittsburgh and is in the top 100 safest cities in the nation in 2017. Located on the Blue and Red Lines of the Pittsburgh Port Authority public transit, Bethel Park residents enjoy easy access to Pittsburgh and South Park without the need to drive. It is located on the of the Pittsburgh Port Authority public transit system for easy access to Pittsburgh and South Park without the need to drive. This is especially helpful for those needing medical care at UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside, which is ranked #11 in the country in geriatrics.
- Median home value – $166,700
- UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside Hospital – #11 in geriatrics care
- No Social Security benefits tax
Just over 32,000 residents live in Bethel Park with a median home value of $166,700. Apartments are available, but most housing is single-family homes. Climate is quite reasonable with an average low of 20 degrees in January and above average high of 85 degrees in July. The city contains part of South Park, a 2,013-acre park with sports like golf and an ice rink, trails, historic buildings, and a wave pool. Free concerts are also held on Fridays in the summer. South Park hosts many community events and classes of interest to seniors, such as yoga and gardening.
Pennsylvania does not collect taxes on Social Security benefits or distributions from 401(k)s, IRAs, or most other retirement accounts. Income that is taxed falls under the state’s low 3.07 percent flat income tax. There is also no state sales tax on food, medication, heating fuel, or clothing. Pennsylvania also offers some rebates on property taxes or rent to seniors after they reach the age of 65, depending on income. There is also no state estate tax.
Little Elm, Texas
Little Elm, Texas is near Dallas and surrounds one arm of the very popular 29,000 acre Lewisville Lake. It was ranked the 22nd safest city in the nation in 2017 and still has reasonable housing costs even though it surrounds the lake. With a median home price of $209,816 and median rent of $1,582 in 2016, Little Elm is not overpriced. Health care is high quality with nationally ranked UT Southwestern Medical Center located nearby in Dallas. The climate is warm with no month seeing below freezing temperatures on average. Summer highs hit their peak in August, on average, at 96 degrees. There is plenty of fishing, boating, and lakeside activities available around the lake to take advantage of in the abundant warm weather.
- Median home value – $209,816
- Nationally ranked UT Southwestern Medical Center located nearby in Dallas
- No Social Security tax, retirement income tax or state income tax
Texas has no state income tax, so there are no taxes on Social Security or other retirement income. Texas also offers a homestead exemption and additional tax break if the homeowner is disabled and over age 65.
Little Elm is close to several sports arenas that offer soccer, concerts, minor league baseball, and college football. While Dallas public transport does not run to Little Elm, Denton County contracts with SPAN Transit to provide transportation for seniors within Denton County and Little Elm.
Independence, Kentucky is located conveniently between two large metropolitan areas and has all the resources and activities large cities can offer while still offering a suburban or upscale rural atmosphere. Ranked the 31st safest city in the country in 2017, it is very attractive for relocation. Independence is located only 15 minutes from Cincinnati and a little over an hour from Lexington and the University of Kentucky Albert B. Chandler Hospital. This hospital ranks nationally as one of the top geriatrics hospitals in the country.
- Median home value – $166,947
- Ranked the 31st safest city in the country
- University of Kentucky Albert B. Chandler Hospital nationally ranked for geriatrics care
While private transportation is required to travel to Lexington, there is public transportation available from Independence to Cincinnati through the Transit Authority of Northern Kentucky. The median home cost of $166,947 as of 2016 and a median gross rent of $969, with a population of a bit over 26,000 makes Independence a haven from the higher city living costs. While still an area full of trees and greenery, it is one of the top 100 fastest growing communities in the nation as well so look for amenities to continue to grow. The local climate is very mild with the lowest average being 23 degrees in January and the highest being 86 degrees in July. Kentucky is a retirement-friendly state and does not tax Social Security benefits and has low tax or no tax on several other retirement income sources, depending on the retiree’s income level. Homestead exemptions for seniors are available as well.
Iowa City, Iowa
The Milken Institute ranked Iowa City, Iowa number one on it’s list for 2017 list of best cities for successful aging. With a total population of 158,370, 10.44 percent (around 16,000) is made up of people 65 and older. Iowa City boasts a low unemployment rate with many older adults having a job and the city’s small business growth is strong.
Iowa City has a large number of primary care physicians and strong specialty care including a larger selection of orthopedic surgeons, hospices, geriatric facilities, and Alzheimer’s facilities. Milken Institute also ranks their nursing homes highly and mentions hospital care isn’t bank breaking. The city is ranked number one in healthcare for small cities by the Milken Institute.
- Median home value – $206,000
- Low unemployment rate, strong small business growth
- Ranked #1 on The Milken Institute’s list of the best cities for successful aging
Iowa City’s cost of living is right at the national average and its median home price is $206,000 according to Zillow, which is up a little over six percent from 2016. Neighborhoods are said to have short commute times and are near public transportation routes.
While there are many places well-suited for retirees, these are four that stood out during our research. Factors like cost of living, tax breaks, activities and healthcare should play a part in your decision-making process when you’re thinking about where you want to retire.